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McCarthy Says He Doesn't Support January 6 Commission Bill; Ninth Day Of Violence Between Israel And Gaza; WH COVID Task Force: Young People, We Need You To Get Vaccinated. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 18, 2021 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: A major power play in Washington today that raises a big question. Why does Kevin McCarthy oppose an independent investigation of the Capitol insurrection? The House Republican leader, let it be known this morning, he will not support a bipartisan agreement to form a 9/11 style commission. McCarthy gave the green light to the talks that actually led to the deal for the panel. Yet this morning, McCarthy says the commission would be duplicative and counterproductive.

He also complaints its scope is in his words too short sighted because he says it does not treat other forms of political violence the same as the January 6th attack on the capital by Trump's supporters trying to block the electoral college certification. Let's get straight up to Capitol Hill, our chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju. Manu, so the leader authorizes the talks, the talks lead to a deal. Now the leader says no thank you.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he did authorize this deal. But it's not the deal that apparently that he wants. He has been saying for some weeks now that he wants this investigation to be broad, to look at not what happened just on January 6th, but also look into the violence that happened last summer during the protests of a racial injustice to look at left wing extremism, not what happened into the extremism that we saw on January 6th, on the day of the Congressional certification in the aftermath of Donald Trump speaking before that rally that led to the death and violence here in the Capitol.

And that has been the neck -- the essence of the dispute between him and Nancy Pelosi for weeks, but he did green light Congressman John Katko, a Republican to actually try to get the deal on his behalf. And the deal was reached Katko and Bennie Thompson, top Democrat reached to the bipartisan deal, a 10-member commission that would report on what happened by the end of the year. This report also could look into, quote, influencing factors that happened leading to the insurrection on January 6th. And Katko told me and also reiterated behind closed doors, that this could look into other issues. If the commissioners wanted to look into protests and extremism that happened on the left, if it had a tie to January 6th, he told me that they can absolutely do that. But McCarthy is saying no. And have clear indication that most Republicans in the House will also vote against it as well. This is expected to come before the House on Wednesday, and then it'll be expected to pass even -- given the Democrats have the majority in the House.

And there will be some Republicans will ultimately back it in the House and then the question will be in the United States Senate, will there be able to get the necessary votes to overcome a likely Republican filibuster, they will need 60 votes to do that.

There are 50 Democrats who are almost certain to vote for it. There are some Republicans who are behind it as well. But it's still unclear, John, amid the opposition now from Republicans, and even a key Senate Republican, John. Just moments go John Thune who suggested he was open to it yesterday suggesting today perhaps he's not. So maybe this bill, which it seemed likely to pass may not get to the President's desk.

KING: Let me ask you a quick question before we go, Manu. Yes, it's all -- the Republicans suddenly don't want investigate an attack on the United States government on the day they were trying to certify our most sacred thing in election. Kevin McCarthy would be a witness if there is such a condition. Has he committed that maybe he doesn't like it, maybe he doesn't want it. But if he loses the votes, and there is a commission, will he testify?

RAJU: That's the big question. We have asked him that question several times over the last day. He has refused to answer with silent when reporters approached him today leaving a closed door conference meeting but to have him to testify, they would almost certainly need to be subpoenaed by this commission that would have to vote on party -- both parties have to agree to it. And then he would have to agree to testify. But John, first they need to pass the bill. And that's still uncertain if that will happen, John.

KING: Manu Raju, live for us on Capitol Hill. Let's bring it into the studio here to share their insights and their reporting, CNN's Abby Phillip and Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief of The Daily Beast. I say he would be a witness for anyone out there who hasn't followed along with this, because he spoke to then President Trump that day. And then he told several colleagues that it was a heated conversation, and that Trump told him to bad, Kevin, the rioters appear to care more about the election results than you do.

And so he would be a key witness into the mindset of the then President of the United States, on the day his supporters were attacking the Capitol. Now Republicans say we don't want this commission. I just want you to hear a little bit of the Democratic anger. This is Jim McGovern, Democratic chairman of the House Rules Committee this morning saying give me a break. This is an attack on our government. Let's get the answers.



REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA): I'm going to tell you, if there's anybody in this chamber who doesn't believe that it's important to get to the truth about what happened on the 6th or who doesn't or wants to make believe that what happened on the 6th didn't happen on the 6th that like a typical tourist day on the Capitol, they are not fit to serve in this chamber. And I've had it.


KING: Where do we go?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, assuming this does pass the House, I think all eyes are on Mitch McConnell, because he has not weighed in on whether or not he will support this at this point. But you mentioned that McCarthy talked to the President. We only know about that, because Congressman Jamie Herrera Beutler talked about it. He hasn't been forthcoming about what happened to him on that day.

And just look at his conference, this isn't necessarily that surprising. When you look at some of the things that we've seen coming out, the member who did say that this was a normal tourist or visit, other members who have also downplayed and tried to whitewash this attack, they don't know how to talk about it. And they certainly don't want to be talking about it in the future.

And we should know, this isn't a commission made up of lawmakers. These will be people who are not members of Congress. That is how it's designed, equally represented between Democrats and Republicans and those Democrats, Republicans will be picked by the leadership of both parties. So this is something that and that was something that Pelosi didn't want. So where this goes, we'll have to see, but it's pretty clear why they don't want to talk about this.

KING: And so it's pretty clear because there's an election in 2022. This Commission would do its work. It would find the facts like the 9/11 Commission did it would release them early in an election year in which the Republicans believe they can take back the House and the Senate.

So Mitch McConnell who I will venture on truth serum, would love for this commission to do its work because he would actually love to purge Donald Trump from the Republican Party, and he would love all these facts to come out except if these facts come out or if Trump fights the Commission, there's a big debate in the Republican Party and maybe it complicates winning the election. So power comes first, which is why you have from Senator Roy Blunt, the Commission will slow us down from some of the things we need to do with the Capitol Police and police port.

Senator Mike Crapo does say though, this is interesting to me, Mike Crapo of Idaho, if the House Republican leadership now it's Democratic leadership can come together in a bipartisan way that I look at it very seriously. He is correct. They cut the deal before Kevin McCarthy spiked it. And they have a deal here. Chuck Grassley, again, the McConnell deputy a long time, they're going to have to broaden the inquiry in order to get 60 votes.

You can look at Antifa if you want, you can look at BLM if you want, do it separately. This is different.


KING: This is not a moral equivalency, attacks on courthouses are bad, violence during protests are bad. This is not an equivalency. This is an attack on the United States government inspired by the President of the United States at the time on a day they were trying to certify the presidential election.

PHILLIP: I mean, let's be honest about what this idea of broadening the scope of the Commission is all about. It's really about trying to paper over what happened on January 6th, that was one of the key efforts that were being made on "Fox News" by members of Congress to peddle these conspiracy theories that really it was Antifa who was behind the violence on January 6th.

So it's the broadening idea is based on a lie. And now you're hearing it more and more from members of Congress in both chambers. You've got Kevin McCarthy, who has been all over the place on this issue. I mean, remember when he said that President Trump deserved the responsibility for what happened on January 6th. And then later, he tried to walk back what Trump told him on the phone.

McCarthy is trying to have it both ways. I do think for Mitch McConnell, this is a true test. The day that of the impeachment trial, McConnell gave this impassioned speech about what happened on January 6th. We will see where that passion went. Will he be willing to investigate what actually happened? And if he's not, we will know why it's all because of politics.

KING: Right. Will he put principle over power, is the question. You mentioned and there are some people out there encouraged by a certain person and his friends to not believe what they hear from reporters on networks like this one. You said Kevin McCarthy changed his story. There are people out there saying, oh, no, she's just making that up. Oh, no, she's not.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The President bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. I don't believe he provoked if you listen to what he said at the rally.


KING: And so, to Manu's point that Kevin McCarthy would require a subpoena probably to testify. He's the Republican leader of the United States Congress. He took an oath to the Constitution, why wouldn't he volunteer?

KUCINICH: Because Kevin McCarthy wants to be the Speaker of the House. And, you know, to your point, there is an election he is very much considering that is top of mind and his base and his membership are not -- aren't are not -- are not behind this, or don't seem to be uniformly behind this because they don't want to talk about it.

PHILLIP: And he's also afraid. He's afraid of -- to -- this is actually why --


KING: President Trump will get mad at him.

PHILLIP: This this is what point Liz Cheney has been making in interviews recently. Republicans are afraid of their voters. They're afraid of Trump. And they don't want to cross either of them. And that's why they're literally cowering in fear of what might happen to them, not just politically. But I mean, when Liz Cheney talked about that she was saying they were fearing for their safety. That's why many Republicans voted against him.

KING: Right. And you make a key point, because let's just suspend belief, facts, and everything we saw and everything we know, let's -- if there were some other factor than a pro Trump mob storming that Capitol, the Commission could find it out. And they could have facts.

This is from John Katko, the Republican moderate who cut this deal with the Democrats. He told CNN, investigators would have the discretion to look into protest by Black Lives Matter and Antifa violence if they chose to go that route. Asked if he believe McCarthy would have to testify, that's up to the Commission.

The Commission would have the power. Which witnesses do we want to hear from? Which documents do we want to see? And if you brought credible evidence to the Commission about Antifa or BLM on that day, or to make it a big enough deal to look somewhere else, the Commission could do it. So what are you afraid of, is the question.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, he's afraid of the truth coming out. And Kevin McCarthy is, to Jackie's point, looking at his own personal political future here. He doesn't care about letting the facts be known about January 6th. Republicans right now want to just turn away from this and not look back. But I think the rest of the country, those of us on planet earth here, realize this is something that is important, needs to be looked into and prevent it from happening ever again.

KING: Especially -- sorry.

KUCINICH: No, I'd say, but the farther away it gets, the easier it is for them to walk away because passion, not among some people but just people move on. People move on to other things.

KING: It shouldn't -- that we shouldn't. And again, this shouldn't be a partisan issue at all. This should be out of respect for the country, the Constitution, the Capitol building, and the brave Metropolitan Capitol Police officers today who tried to stop what happened and some of them were hurt, some of them lost their lives, some of them still have damaged from it. So hopefully it does not go away.

Up next, we go live to the Middle East. President Biden back to the ceasefire, but the violence in Israel and Gaza sadly rages on.



KING: President Biden now on record saying he supports an Israeli- Palestinian ceasefire. But this morning, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says operations will continue, quote, as necessary to restore peace and order. And after a night of no rockets, the soundtrack of war again picked up in Israel and Gaza this morning. There were a fighter jets, sirens, and screams amid reports of more dead and more wounded. Let's get the latest now from CNN's Ben Wedeman on the ground in Jerusalem. Ben, the U.S. President may say he wants to ceasefire. But as of now he's not getting his wish.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not happening. And we heard clearly from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that they're going to carry on this operation until their objectives are achieved. Now just to give you an idea where I am, John, we're in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Now the region is in flame, Gaza, the West Bank, but it is here where the spark was first lit for this current round.

It's all about simple things like there's four Palestinian families in this neighborhood under the threat of forced eviction that has caused friction, that has spread and spread. And therefore you have the situation that we're living here today. Behind me, there are Israeli border police who have been trying to disperse people who are taking part in a general strike across the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and parts of Israel as well in solidarity with Gaza.

So even if, by some miracle, a ceasefire is worked out in Gaza, you will always have these problems until somehow they're resolved, the problems of the dispossession of Palestinians, the problems and the fact that in Jerusalem 30 percent of the population are Palestinians who do not have the same civil and political rights as Israelis living in this city. And therefore, hopefully, there will be a ceasefire. But that does not mean in any sense that calm will be restored. It will be at best temporary, at best limited, John.

KING: Ben Wedeman, grateful for you -- you and crews work on the ground there are, so other CNN personnel as well. We'll keep in touch as this plays out. Thank you very much, Ben.


When we come back, the latest COVID numbers, but as we go to break, I want to show you President Biden in Michigan right now, seeing the Ford of the future, pitching green energy jobs in Michigan, at an assembly line, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Several important new numbers out of the Biden team's COVID briefing today including this one, the CDC says about 60 percent of those 18 and older have already had at least their first dose of a COVID vaccine.

Let's walk through some of the other numbers in the country right now. Overall, the trend lines are improving and the red line tells you that. You see this is the horrific winter peak, 300 case -- 300,000 cases a day, way back in May of 2020, 22,000 cases a day, right, we're coming out of the initial surge coming across the flat line here before we went up in the summer, 22,000 then, 28,634 new infections yesterday.

So we're starting to push this down below 30,000. We're averaging 32,000 right now, 32,000 new COVID infections a day. The goal is to keep pushing that down. Obviously we're way down from where we were in January. This is never a good news chart. Any deaths from COVID is sadness. But this number starting to come down as well. You watch the seven-day average, the blue line coming down, 392 of our fellow Americans die from COVID yesterday, again, every one of those deaths a tragedy.

The numbers down though down. We're averaging 507 still a day. We need to keep pushing those numbers down. This 15 states yesterday reported no COVID deaths. Let's all pray that we can fill in this map with more states saying that in the days and weeks ahead. No COVID deaths yesterday in 15 of the 50 states. We're already in the vaccine roll out, more than 37 percent of the population is now fully vaccinated of the population over 12 years old, 44 percent fully vaccinated.


And the most vulnerable those over 65 were at 73 percent fully vaccinated. Those numbers going up every day, but not as fast as the administration and the public health experts would hope. You see right now the average is 1.8 million doses per day.

That's where we are right here below 2 million. You can see we were above 3 million for a little stretch in the late April, it has come down steadily since. This is not a supply issue. There's plenty of supply out there. Andy Slavitt, one of the White House COVID coordinators, with a message today to young people now that you're eligible for vaccine, Andy Slavitt says you want your life back, go get that shot.


ANDY SLAVITT, SENIOR ADVISER TO WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE TEAM: My message to young people, of course, is simple. Get vaccinated, whether you're a graduate, still in high school, in college, just out or more than a little bit out. It's the most important thing you can do right now. COVID cases are down in all 50 states. We're winning the war on the virus. And we need you to help us finish the job.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Let's get some important insights now from William Moss. He's -- Dr. William Moss, he's the executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Doctor, thank you for your time today.

You know these numbers better than I do. It's not a supply issue anymore. When you hear Mr. Slavitt and others on the White House team essentially trying to find any way they can. If you're eligible for vaccine, please go get one. What from your experience, what's the best message for those who might still be hesitant?

DR. WILLIAM MOSS, EXEC. DIR., INTL. VACCINE CTR., JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, John, thank you for having me. And there are still a number of challenges. Exactly as you said, we're in a good position. The case numbers are coming down. We're about where we were in September. Vaccination numbers continue to climb. I think the messages need to be to those who are still hesitant that we've learned a lot about this -- these vaccines and they're very safe and very effective.

And we need to have a number of messengers get this message out. We need to be understanding what people's concerns are. Some people have concerns about safety. Some people don't believe in the threat of COVID-19. We need to understand the concerns are, address those. Yes?

KING: Forgive me for interrupting, Sir, a little glitch in the signal there. As more adults get vaccinated. We've seen this trend where we are seeing more cases among children. I want to show the latest numbers here, 49,000 last week cases among children.

That's 24 percent of the new cases reported. But it's the lowest number of child COVID cases since October. Help me with the math here. How much of that is younger people starting to get vaccinated? Or how much of it -- is this the larger issue, more adults are being vaccinated therefore there's less threat of exposure?

MOSS: Yes, exactly right, John. It's -- I think this is largely being driven by more adults being vaccinated. So we're seeing a higher proportion of children, you know, making up all the cases in the United States. The overall the case numbers are down, case numbers in children are down, but children are making up now almost a quarter of all the reported cases in the United States. Throughout earlier in the pandemic, maybe children made up about 10 to 15 percent, very early in the in the pandemic less than 5 percent. So I think what we're seeing are fewer cases in adults, and thus, children are making up a higher proportion.

KING: I'm going to guess that you're getting asked this question both in a professional setting and from personal friends who just know your area of expertise. And that is what do I do now that the CDC has changed its guidelines for masking, dropping the mask requirement especially for the vaccinated in most circumstances. I want you to listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci walking through the confusion a little bit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: There was some establishment who was saying, well, I'm going to have people coming into my establishment and my store or what have you, some are going to be vaccinated and some not. I'm not going to know the difference. It's perfectly reasonable and understandable for the owner of that establishment to say, you know, we're going to keep the mask mandate up. And that's what we're seeing. And I think that's causing the confusion.


KING: How do you view given your expertise the do's and don'ts of masking at this moment?

MOSS: Yes. And I realized, John, that the CDC was in a difficult position and, you know, came out with these new guidelines relaxing the mask mandate for those who are fully vaccinated. Again, these are CDC guidelines.

I think they could have done better and having a more transparent process on the decision making, giving us a little more of a heads up so individuals as well as businesses could have been prepared for that, recognizing that not all situations are equal. But I think as Tony Fauci said, you know, people are going to have to make individual decisions and businesses will make individual decisions.


KING: Dr. William Moss, grateful, Sir, for your time and insights today. We'll continue this conversation and grateful for your time with us this hour in a busy hour of Inside Politics. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage on a busy News Day right now.